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Why cancer made me cry

This post is part of our 'Looking Back To Go Forward' series, written by a mum called Rebecca. She was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child. Seven years after her diagnosis and treatment, she reflects on that time, how it affected her and some of the unexpected feelings and experiences it brought up.

Each cancer diagnosis and impact are unique but the one thing that links cancer diagnoses are the intense emotions cancer creates. Unfortunately intense and less positive emotions are not encouraged to be expressed in society.

These emotions don't go away, they become buried as we try and hide our distress from ourselves and others. However to recover from cancer, we need to express all the emotions cancer creates without judgment or restriction.

The expression of the emotions cancer creates should been seen as a long term project and they may need to be expressed time after time and even year’s after the diagnosis. This is because although cancer is a physical illness which is treated medically it impacts all areas of someone’s life and for the rest of their life not just for the duration of diagnosis and treatment.

One of the emotions cancer creates is sadness. At times we all feel sad. We can show sadness by being depressed, withdrawn, crying or even being angry.

I was sad for so much when I had cancer. I was sad at what changed. I was sad at being lonely. I was sad because I was scared. I was sad that no one could resolve cancer for me. I was sad thinking about dying. I was sad at having cancer. I was sad about being a rubbish mum. I was sad I had let people down. But most of all I was sad about what I had lost. I lost the enjoyment of my pregnancy. I lost the enjoyment of my new baby. I lost the chance of more pregnancies. I lost parts of my life. I lost huge chunks of time. I lost the certainty of a future. I lost carefree days. I lost my hair. I lost most of my breast. I lost my freedom. I lost myself.

My sadness seemed unstoppable and I would cry day after day. I would cry so much I couldn’t breathe, but I needed to cry those tears. In time life felt a bit brighter, sometimes not for long but for a few moments or minutes I did. I trusted my mind was doing what it needed to do even though at times I felt close to a mental breakdown. I have been able to recover from cancer because I expressed this sadness (along with other emotions) at breadth and depth day after day, week after week and month after month.

My sadness was letting go of how my life was, how I wanted it to be and how I imagined it would be. In time I was able to create a new life but it was incredibly painful letting go of my life as it was. I still cry around tests and check-ups from a fear of what may happen but I recognise this is from feeling powerless and helpless.

There can be a great deal of loss after a diagnosis of cancer and as difficult as it is to see someone sad and distressed it’s vital these feelings are expressed, seen and heard to recover from cancer. Although it’s natural to want to resolve the distress of our loved ones they have to express these feelings and the greatest gift is someone allowing the time and space for that. Every single moment of sadness although difficult to live with and through is there for a reason.

What were you sad about when you had cancer? How did you manage this? How did people react to your sadness? Where do you feel you can express your sadness? Can you use art or music to express your sadness? Or writing? Would a talking therapy or group support help you?



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